Evil All Around Us
A childless mother has a miscarriage for the third time in a row. An adulterous affair is ripping a family apart. My neighbors were recently robbed.
The city I grew up in is experiencing a spree of shootings and robberies at gunpoint. The neighborhood where I live just witnessed an older man killed in broad daylight.
Twenty minutes south of me a little girl was found dead after being left in a car on a hot summer day. In that same county a man shot his wife and two children before turning the gun on himself.
You do not have to look hard to see the evil all around us. The picture is even more grim when we think of how many untold millions of people are hurting and suffering from other tragedies that we will never hear or know.
More Than Reminders of a Broken World
For many, such tragedies are usually little more than ‘sad reminders’ of living in a broken world. They are just stories, that is, until they reach in, uninvited, and touch our lives. As a pastor I have the privilege and responsibility of talking with people when they are going through tragedies. In addition to the hurting, the tears, the anger, I’ve found that personal tragedies are often filled with doubts, second guesses, and feelings of confusion.
It’s common for people to wonder: Why did this happen? Why didn’t God stop this? God, why me?
Some wonder if God isn’t powerful enough to stop evil acts from occurring. (He is.)
Some wonder if God doesn’t care, or if he doesn’t love them enough to stop evil. (He does.)
Others wonder if God exists at all. Soon it’s not long until “How could God let this happen?” loses its question mark and becomes, “If God did exist, then he would not have let this happen.”
Why?—The Dead-end Question
As we read what God has to say about all the evil and suffering in his world, it becomes clear that most of us have an unhealthy obsession with the question, “God, why me?”
To put it bluntly, there are no positive examples (that I can think of) that involve anyone asking “Why me, God?” When a man named Job that question, God’s response cut right to the heart of the problem: We think we know how the world should go, and we think that if we were God, we’d run things a lot differently. Sound arrogant? God thought so too, and he let Job know it with a rebuke so one-sided that it borders on stand-up comedy.
Of course, I’m not suggesting that we rebuke others whenever tragedy strikes and they ask, “Why?” But it is worth nothing that the question always leads to a dead-end. We think that by asking, “Why me?” we will discover an answer that will satisfy our curiosity, that will gives us some kind of silver lining, some kind of purpose or reason that will temper the grief with a bit of good news.
But God gives us another answer instead. He stays that evil and suffering exist in his world because of our sin, the sins of others, and the work of God’s enemy, Satan. That’s the only “reason why” that God gives us.
What's Better Than Why
In place of an all-satisfying reason, however, God gives us something even better. He shows us what he thinks about evil and suffering and what he has done about it.
Everywhere Jesus went he had compassion on suffering, he forgave the guilty, and he resisted the works of the devil. Therefore, we don’t have to guess concerning what God thinks about evil. He hates evil, and he is hellbent on removing it from his world forever. Jesus tells us, "The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father" (Matthew 13:41-43).
Jesus' Victory Over Evil and Suffering
We need look no further than the cross and resurrection of Jesus to see that God does indeed have the power to do something about evil. On the cross Jesus delivered a death blow to sin and death itself. He swallowed sin and death but spit out victory. On the cross he gave an advance judgment of all sin and evil, showing them to have no place in his future world. And after his resurrection, Jesus promised to return to destroy the sin and evil that he has already defeated. Since sin and evil are defeated-but-not-destroyed, we still experience them, but only in part. Death has become like a bee without a stinger. And sin has become a slave master that can no longer keep his slaves from escaping through the Underground Railroad.
Furthermore, the cross and resurrection of Jesus show us that we don’t have to wonder about whether God cares to stop suffering and evil. He does care, deeply. So deeply in fact, that Jesus willingly laid down his life as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. He took our punishment, dying so that we could live through him. "This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him" (1 John 4:9).
Thus, we know that God is powerful enough and loving enough to do something about evil and suffering, because he has already done so in Jesus. When grief or tragedy strike, we can rejoice that the evils of this world have already passed their expiration date. And when Jesus returns, he's rid the world of these things once and for all.